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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Jeremiah 9:3



"They bend their tongue like their bow; Lies and not truth prevail in the land; For they proceed from evil to evil, And they do not know Me," declares the LORD.

Adam Clarke Commentary

They bend their tongues like their bow for lies - And their lies are such that they as fully take away life as the keenest arrow shot from the best strung bow. The false prophets told the people that there was no desolation at hand: the people believed them; made no preparation for their defense; did not return to the Lord; and the sword came and destroyed them.

They are not valiant for the truth - They are bold in sin, and courageous to support their lies; but the truth they neither patronize nor support.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

The Biblical Illustrator

Jeremiah 9:3

They are not valiant for the truth.

Valiant for the truth

I. Inquire what is the truth. It is “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God.” Without a knowledge of this, oh! how ignorant is the wisest in the things of time!

1. “The truth as it is in Jesus” was at first but obscurely revealed; a veil was cast over it which prophets and righteous men desired to remove.

2. “The truth as it is in Jesus” is a jewel only to be found in the casket of God’s Word, not in the traditions of men; and that casket--emphatically called “the Word of truth”--must be unlocked for us by Him who is “the Spirit of truth.”

II. How we may be valiant for it.

1. A cordial belief in it must be the first step to a valiant defence of it.

2. Love of the truth, an unalterable and unwavering attachment to it, must follow a firm belief in it. This principle gives courage to the soldier on the battlefield; patience to the wife amid scenes of sickness and misfortune.

3. Next follows an uncompromising advocacy of it. We fear not to give utterance to that in which we firmly believe, and which we ardently love.

4. Valour for Christ, who is “the truth” personified, will further display itself by noble sacrifices for Him, for the dissemination of His truth at home, for its propagation abroad.

5. Valour for the truth is most signally displayed by a consistent, prayerful, and persevering obedience to all its requirements. (J. S. Wilkins.)

Valiant for the truth

I. What is truth, that for it one can be, should be, valiant? Truth is real. Truth is accessible and may be known. Truth is precious. Truth imposes in every direction obligations that cannot be met except by the most genuine and resolute valour. The best philologists of our own generation refer the word to a root meaning “to believe,” and draw upon the whole group of related languages and dialects to show that truth is “firm, strong, solid, reliable, anything that will hold.” It should, seem, then, that we ought not to believe anything but what is firm, established, and that truth is what we rightly believe. For this our highest powers can be summoned into action, while nothing but a poor counterfeit of our best activity can be called forth in behalf of that which is known or seriously suspected to be unreal. The sophist may be adroit, dexterous in disposition and argument, and selfishly eager for victories. The pettifogging advocate in any profession may gain brief successes by natural powers and discipline, aided by sheer audacity. This is a result and proof of the world’s disorder. Man is for truth and truth for man--both real. And truth is accessible and may be known. He who gave us reason and nature, Whose they are, and Whom they should ever serve, has come in pity to the relief of our impotence and bewilderment by the disclosures that His Spirit makes. In the Gospel “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men.” Here is truth that is real. Here is truth that may be known. Of all precious truth, truth on which souls can be nourished, truth to which lives can be safely conformed, here is that which is most precious--truth that enters most deeply and permanently into character and takes hold of destiny. Of all truth worthy and suited to stimulate man’s highest powers, to the most sustained, and most intense sufficiency, here is that which is worthiest and most stated. Of all truth that is of such kind and in such relations to us that it is not only worth our while, but in every way incumbent upon us to put forth our highest valour to gain it and to hold it, here is the most essential. We are bidden, “Buy the truth and sell it not.” And this is not a mere appeal to our self-interest. Truth, especially this sacred truth, encompasses us with obligations. For this acquisition we do not merely do well to pay the price of toil and struggle; we fail grossly and widely in duty if we withhold the price. And what we have so dearly bought at the price of our humbled pride, at the price of our falling out with the fashion of this world “which passeth away,” what we win by the surrender of our self-sufficiency and imaginary independence, by our resolute self-mastery, our vigorous effort, and whatever besides the attainment may cost, we are to hold against all seductions and all assaults, “valiant for the truth.”

II. What is the manly valour that can find any fair and proper field for its exercise--its fairest and most proper field in connection with truth? It is not mere boldness, bravery, courage, but moves in a higher plane, and is instinct with a loftier inspiration. These may have their source chiefly in the physical and animal, that which we share with the bulldog and the gorilla; while valour is a knightly grace, and makes account mainly of the ideal. We shall esteem that the truest valour in which there is me fullest consciousness and manifestation of manhood, with the clearest conception and the most persistent adherence to worthy ends of manly endeavour. There can then be nothing forced or unnatural in the phrase of our text, “valiant for the truth.” For what should a true man be valiant rather than for the acquisition, maintenance, and service of the truth--truth known as real, judged to be important, valued as precious? And what estimate must we put upon the manhood that can be “strong in the land, but not for truth”--energetic, daring, resolved, and persistent for lower and grosser interests, but not for the truth?

II. By what call from without does truth most authoritatively and effectively summon valour to its aid? Truth is imperial, not only in the quality of the authority which it asserts and the richness of the bounty which it dispenses, but also in the breadth of the dominion to which it lays claim. We have made our first obedience when we have yielded ourselves to the truth. We are to go on proclaiming truth’s rights, and helping it to gain rule over others. We vindicate the rights of the truth, while we secure blessings to our fellow men through truth’s ascendency over them. And this obligation and opportunity subject our manhood to some of the most searching tests by which we are ever tried. Are we capable of taking larger views of truth than those which connect it with some prospect of advantage to ourselves? Do we esteem it for what it is, and not only for what it brings us? And what is the measure of our discernment of the rights and needs of others, and what is our response? The manly and Christian spirit has large conceptions of right and duty. And then truth, while imperial in its rights, is sometimes imperilled by denial and attack, and that at the hands of the very men whose allegiance it claims. Its rights are contested; its very credentials are challenged. It encounters not merely the negative resistance of ignorance and dulness, of low tastes and sensual and earthly preoccupations; it is met by a more positive impeachment. He who is valiant for truth will no more suffer it to fight its own battles than a true knight would have resorted to any such evasion in a cause to which he was committed. And the response which we make to the summons of assailed truth gives opportunity to display some of the finest qualities that belonged to the old knighthood--unswerving loyalty, courage, endurance, self-sacrifice. But there is another call for valour in behalf of Christian truth higher than that which comes from our fellow men and their claims upon it. What Christ is on the one side to the truth and on the other side to us, and what the truth is to Him, supply a new inspiration and strength, and add a new quality to Christian endeavour--a personal quality that was wanting before. He who is valiant for the truth because of what it is in its reality and reliableness shows his discernment. He who is valiant for the truth because of what it is to manhood shows a wise self-appreciation. He who is valiant for the truth because of the claim his fellow men have upon it, and upon him if he has it in his possession, shows that he knows his place, his obligation, his opportunity as a man among men. He who is valiant for the truth for Christ’s sake shows that he knows and honours his Lord, and would make Him indeed Lord of all. Consider what Christ is to the substance of the truth; what He is to the authority and efficiency of the truth; and what the truth is to Him in the assertion and manifestation of His Lordship. The truth is not only Christ’s as its great Revealer; the truth is Christ as its great Revelation. To him who asks, What is the way? we answer, The way is Christ. To him who would know, What is the life? we make reply, The life is Christ. And we proclaim, as that which is of the highest concern to man to know, the truth is Christ. He is the great embodiment of truth--truth incarnate. What He was, over and above all that He said, teaches us what we should seek in vain to learn elsewhere. He was the chief revelation of the nature, the power, the love, the saving grace of God. (C. A. Aitken, D. D.)

Valour for the truth

I. What is comprehended in this important word, “the truth”? It has been remarked that “truth is a relative term, expressing a conformity between the object and the mind, a harmony between the object and the 1des we entertain of it”: thus, truth becomes one of those terms, the precise meaning of which can only be ascertained by determining the subject of which it may be predicated. I propose to regard the scheme of Divine grace, for the recovery of man--the scheme of which we are ministers,--as that which alone deserves the supreme appellation of “the truth.” I proceed, then, to consider--

1. Man’s state as a sinner.

2. God’s work as a Saviour. Justice, as one of the attributes of God, is as essentially a part of His nature, so to speak, as His Omnipresence, His Omniscience, His Truth; and, since there is more than a propriety, even a moral necessity, that all the proceedings of the Deity should be such as to bring out the full glory of His entire Name, it is manifest that He can only interpose an arrest of judgment, confer pardon, renovation, and eternal glory, on atonement being made.

II. What is required to constitute the character described by the expression, “valiant for the truth”? Valour is, strictly speaking, a martial term. We are made to feel and deplore that a contrariety of element exists in connection with the spiritual world. This gives rise to severe conflict. Now to be valiant, even in human estimation, requires something more than bravery; yea, more than courage. There must be a combination of both; or, at least, to be valiant, a man must be preeminently courageous. “Bravery,” says an eminent authority, “is a mere instinct; for it depends on mere constitutional temperament.” Courage is a virtue, indeed, for it lies in the mind; it depends on reflection and thought; but he only is valiant, who weighs the whole enterprise deliberately, lays his plans prudently, and follows them out systematically; whom defeat may bow, but cannot break; whilst triumph only stimulates him to renewed effort, inflames him with fresh zeal, and imparts to him a thirst for new glory--a thirst which nothing can satisfy till the last position is taken and the last trophy won! To be “valiant for the truth,” then, requires--

1. That there be a serious and habitual contemplation of the truth.

2. That there be a sincere embracing of the truth, and the practical experience of its power in the heart.

3. That there De active and uniform exertion in our respective spheres, for the spread of “the truth.”

4. That there be solemn and earnest prayer that the Holy Spirit may accompany, with His power, all our efforts for the diffusion of “the truth.”

III. What are the considerations, which are calculated to stir up to the holy emotions, involved in the expression, “valiant for the truth”?

1. Let there be serious reflection as to the value of the soul, and the danger which threatens it whilst uninfluenced by the truth.

2. Let us reflect on the awful rapidity with which souls are passing to their eternal destiny.

3. Let us reflect on the responsibility that attaches to the office to which we have been called, and the awful doom that awaits unfaithfulness in its discharge.

4. Let us reflect on the transcendent joy with which ministerial faithfulness will hereafter be crowned. (John Gaskin, M. A.)

Valiant for the truth

I. What is that which peculiarly merits the appellation of “the truth”? The comprehensive title of “the truth” was applied to revealed religion, alike in its principles and commandments, in order to furnish a broad and emphatic distinction between it and those habits of evil thoughts and practices which had been engendered and fostered by idolatry. By the same appellation of “the truth,” we find pure religion--whether in Patriarchal, or Levitical, or Christian times--is frequently designated in Scripture, in order to furnish a special recommendation of its character, and to illustrate its aspect and intention in the world. It is a communication respecting the being and character of God, the plan of His government, the authority and the sanction of His law--a communication with respect to the moral circumstances and character of man, the tendency by which he is actuated, and the dangers to which he is exposed--a communication respecting the method of grace, and the restoration of the favour of the Almighty, by which his apprehended miseries may be removed--and a communication respecting the high and sublime consecration of human destiny which is reserved for him in that immortality into which he is to be ushered when existence in this world is terminated. The verities which are proclaimed by the Christian system, on topics such as these, plainly possess a value that is perfectly incalculable, comprehending, as they do, the highest interests of our species. In making the assertion that Christianity is to be considered, emphatically, as “the truth,” we must not omit to mention that it is confirmed in a manner that is perfectly conclusive and convincing.

II. What are the state of mind and course of conduct which the truth, as thus defined, eminently deserves?

1. To be valiant for the truth involves a firm adherence to the doctrines it propounds. We well know that many hostile influences are around us, which tempt us to the blighting influence of doubt, and even of positive infidelity; such as the fear of incurring the ridicule and the hatred of others, the personal suggestions of our own in-dwelling unbelief, and, above all, the mysterious, though potent, machinations of him who is the arch-enemy of souls. This of course, at least, requires the exercise of spiritual combat, which must be displayed by a firm and uncompromising resistance to whatever might lead us to impugn, to doubt, and to deny.

2. To be valiant for the truth upon the earth involves a holy conformity to the precepts which it enforces. What holy vigour and boldness are required in order to resist steadily and successfully the multitudinous abstractions from holiness--the accumulated adversaries to the purification of the souls--to repudiate and repel the approaches of Satan--to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, that we may live soberly, righteously, and godly, according to the commandment we have received, to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts--to cultivate, with devout diligence, the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God; and, with all the surrounding faithful, to exhibit the power of the truth by the purity of life. This is to be “valiant for the truth”; this is heroism indeed!

3. To be “valiant for the truth” involves the public advocacy before other men of the claims which it possesses. How many noble examples of this spiritual valour have we met with in the annals of the Church! See them in the case of the prophets who were not afraid, though briars and thorns were with them, and though they dwelt among scorpions, and who yet spoke the word of God boldly to the rebellious people, whether they would hear, or whether they would forbear. See them in the apostles, who “counted not their lives dear,” etc. See those examples again in the noble army of martyrs, and in the long and triumphant succession of confessors, and reformers, and teachers, and missionaries, who have dared ignominy, and contempt, and wrath, and murder, for the sake of the overthrow of error, and the triumph of the truth as it is in Jesus.

III. What are the considerations by which this state of mind, and course of conduct, are specially and powerfully commended?

1. A concern for your own personal welfare. “Them that honour Me, I also will honour.” On the other hand, the want of these elements of the spiritual character, which we have set before you,--to hate put God away--to be reckless of the claims of the truth--and to live in a discipleship of falsehood, is, by a necessary vindication of the Divine equity and justice, to live in an exposure to evils the most fearful which man can ever endure.

2. A concern for the welfare and interests of the Church of God. When valour and boldness among the disciples of the truth is exhibited and augmented, then it is an axiom, a thing that needs no proof, in religion, that the truth which has that exercise will grow mightily, and will prevail. (J. Parsons.)

They proceed from evil to evil.

Evil begets evil

One danger of secret sin is that a man cannot commit it without being by and by betrayed into a public sin. If a man commit one sin, it is like the melting of the lower glacier upon the Alps, the others must follow in time. As certainly as you heap one stone upon the cairn today, the next day you will east another, until the heap reared stone by stone shall become a very pyramid. See the coral insect at work; you cannot decree where it shall stay its pile. It will not build its rock as high as you please; it will not stay until an island shall be created. Sin cannot be held in with bit and bridle; it must be mortified. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Progression in sin

In the Rabbinical books of the Jews they have a curious tradition about the growth of leprosy, that it began with the walls of a man’s house, then, if he did not repent, entered his garments, till at last the tatter covered his whole body. And thus it is with the growth of sin. It begins with the neglect of duty, it may be of prayers; or the warning voice of conscience is unheeded. Habits of sin are formed; till at last the soul that lets God alone is let alone by God. (F. G. Pilkington.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jeremiah 9:3". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies,.... Their tongues were like bows, and their lying words like arrows, which they directed against persons to their injury; see Psalm 11:2, or, "like their deceitful bow"F16קש־תאם שקר "veluti acum falsum", Munster; "quasi arcum mendacii", V. L. ; to which the Targum agrees,

"they teach their tongues words of falsehood, they are like to a deceitful bow.'

Most agreeably to the accents the words may be rendered, "they bend their tongues, their bow is a lie"F17"Et tetenderunt linguam suam, arcus ipsorum mendacium est", De Dieu; "qui tendunt linguam suam, arcus eorum est mendacium", Schmidt. Approved by Reinbeck. De Accent. Heb. p. 437. ; either deceitful, or carries a lie in it, and shoots one out of it:

but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; which a man should do everything for, and nothing against; and which he should earnestly contend for, and not part with or give up at any rate; not only for the truth of doctrine, for faith, as the Targum; for the doctrine of faith, the truth of the Gospel, and as it is in Christ; but for truth between man and man, for veracity, rightness, and integrity: for they proceed from evil to evil; from one sin to another, growing worse and worse, as wicked men and deceivers usually do. Kimchi observes, it may be interpreted, as of evil works, so of the evil of punishment, from one evil of the enemy to another; or this year they are smitten with blasting, another with mildew, or with the locust, and yet they turn not from their evil ways:

and they know not me, saith the Lord; the God of truth, and without iniquity, and who will severely punish for it; they did not serve and worship him as the only Lord God. The Targum is,

"the knowledge of my fear they learned not.'

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And they bend their tongues [like] their bow [for] d lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD.

(d) To belie and slander their neighbours.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

tongues … for lies — that is, with lies as their arrows; they direct lies on their tongue as their bow (Psalm 64:3, Psalm 64:4).

not valiant for … truth — (Jeremiah 7:28). Maurer translates, “They do not prevail by truth” or faith (Psalm 12:4). Their tongue, not faith, is their weapon.

upon … earth — rather, “in the land.”

know not me — (Hosea 4:1).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Jeremiah confirms what he had said of the near destruction of the people; for, as we have said, the Jews ridiculed threatenings while they thought themselves far from every danger. But the Prophet shews, from the nature of God himself, that they must necessarily perish in a short time; for since God is the judge of the world, and as they were continually advancing in impiety and wickedness, they could no longer be tolerated. This is the meaning.

He first says, that they stretched their tongues as a bow for falsehoods The verb דרך, darek, means to walk, and often occurs in this sense; but; it means also to stretch, to bend, and is frequently applied to bows. As it is here in Hiphil, some take it in a transitive sense. It ought in this case to have י , iod; but such defect is often found in other places. This sense is the most suitable; that is, that they shot with their tongues falsehood as with a bow. Others improperly construe שקר, shikor, in the genitive case, as though he had said, “the bow of falsehood, but this gives no meaning; and therefore “the bow of falsehood” cannot be admitted here. The sense is, that they shot falsehood with their tongue as with a bow, or that they made their tongue to go to falsehood, or that they stretched their tongue like a bow for falsehood. If the last rendering be approved, — that they stretched their tongue, etc., then the Prophet compares their tongues to bows and falsehoods to arrows. As to the subject itself, there is no difference, whether we read that they shot lies with their tongues, or that they stretched their tongues for lies: for the Prophet simply means that their tongues, as he will hereafter tell us, were so pointed that they pierced one another with slanders and falsehoods, as though one stretched a bow and shot an arrow. He then intimates, that all their words were deadly, for they were intent on slanders and falsehoods, so that there was no intercourse without a mortal wound.

He then adds, that they were not strong for the truth Some read, “They have been strong, but not for the truth;” others, “They have been strong as to the truth,” or for the truth: but I think that the Prophet’s meaning is different, — that having checked the truth, they took more liberty for themselves, as though he had said that they triumphed when all faithfulness and rectitude were destroyed; for by the word, אמונה amune, the Prophet no doubt means that fidelity by which men ought to carry on their concerns one with another. Since, then, there was no uprightness among them, he says, that they marched forth as victorious when they trod under foot what was just and right. It is indeed a proof of extreme impiety, when men, trampling upon faithfulness and equity, allow themselves every kind of licentiousness. Some give this explanation, — that they ruled, not through their faithfulness or virtues, for they had crept into and obtained honors by wicked and deceitful arts. And it. is indeed certain that the Prophet directs his discourse, not against the common people, but against the chief men, who had attained their power by frauds. But I am satisfied with the view that I have already given, — that they had become strong because there was no truth, as when we say that the blind rule in darkness, when everything is in confusion. The meaning is, that they were not only given up to their sins, but that they also triumphed over fidelity and justice, by allowing themselves every liberty, as there was no one who dared to say a word to restrain them. He says, that they thus became strong through the whole land; for he sets forth here the deplorable state of the people in general; as though he had said, “There is no hope of deliverance left, for truth and faithfulness are everywhere oppressed.” (237)

An explanation follows, — that they proceeded from evil to evil; that is, they obstinately went on in their evil doings; for to go forth means the same as to pass. They then passed from evil to evil; that is, when they had done one evil, no repentance entered their hearts, so as to turn back; but they continued their wickedness, and aceunrelated evils on evils. We now then understand what the Prophet means; for he sets forth their pertinacity in evil deeds, and at the same time shews that there was no evidence of amendment, for they passed from one bad deed to another like it.

And me have they not known, saith Jehovah He shews here what is the source of all evils; they had cast aside every knowledge and every thought of God. We indeed know that when God is really known, his fear must necessarily influence our hearts; and the knowledge of God begets reverence and a regard for religion. It is indeed true, that God is somewhat known by even the ungodly and the wicked, and that they have some notions respecting him; but it is no more than an empty knowledge. When indeed we are fully persuaded that God is the judge of the world, and when we have also a knowledge of his goodness and paternal favor, we necessarily fear him and spontaneously and willingly worship and serve him. Ignorance of God, then, is a kind of madness which carries men headlong to every sort of impiety. On this account, God complains that he was not known by the people, for the fear of him was not in them. It follows —

And they bend their tongue, their lying bow; And not for truth are they strong in the land.

“Their lying bow,” or “their bow of falsehood;” it was a bow by which they shot lies; they employed their tongues for this purpose. — Ed.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Jeremiah 9:3 And they bend their tongues [like] their bow [for] lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD.

Ver. 3. And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies.] To the impeaching of others in their name, state, and life. I read that in Italy, at this day, they have a pocketstone bow, which, held under a cloak, shoots needles with violence to pierce a man’s body, yet leaveth a wound scarce discernible. (a) Lo, such is an evil tongue, and such mischief it may do a man.

But they are not valiant for the truth.] Truth is no part of their profession; and courage in a good cause they have none. Of the most we may say, as of harts and stags, they have great horns, but to little purpose; or as Themistocles said of the Eretrians, (b) that they were like the swordfish, which hath a sword indeed, but not a heart to make use of it.

And they know not me, saith the Lord.] The low apprehensions men have of God, make their hearts work so poorly after him. [Psalms 9:10]

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



Jeremiah 9:3. They are not valiant for the truth upon the earth.

IT is by no means uncommon to see men valiant in their country’s cause, or fearless in the commission of iniquity. But courage on the side of religion is a quality but rarely seen. This virtue attaches not itself to strength of nerves, nor is it a necessary attendant on constitutional intrepidity. It is a grace, produced in the heart by the Holy Spirit; and is found equally to adorn the weaker as the stronger sex. The want of natural courage is a fault in those only who enter into professions where the exercise of it is essential to a proper discharge of their duty: but the want of spiritual valour is a crime, for which we must answer before God: yea, it is a great and heinous crime, for which we have reason to dread his heaviest judgments. The prophet, when enumerating the sins which prevailed among the Jews, and which caused him to weep over them day and night, mentions this as one that called for his severest reprehension; namely, that when they could “proceed with undaunted effrontery from evil to evil,” they “were not valiant for the truth upon the earth.”

In illustrating these words, we propose to shew,

I. That valour is requisite on the side of truth—

Let “truth” be taken in the lowest sense, as meaning nothing more than common justice and equity, and there will still be found need of valour for the maintenance of it in the world. Let a magistrate set himself vigorously to reform abuses, and he will soon find that vice and profaneness will maintain a violent contest against him, and that he has need of courage to carry his plans into full effect.

But if we understand “the truth” as comprehending the whole extent of our duty not only as men but as Christians, our need of valour in maintaining it will be still more apparent. We stand in need of it,

1. To profess the truth—

[Who does not know that a profession of religion subjects us to contempt? What was said of the Christians of the first ages, is equally true at this day; “We know that this sect is everywhere spoken against.” Men will “gaze strangely at us, as soon as we cease to run with them into their excess of riot [Note: 1 Peter 4:4.].” As soon as we “depart from evil, we make ourselves a prey [Note: Isaiah 59:15.],” which every one feels himself at liberty to hunt. What the Gibeonites experienced, when they made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel, is a striking emblem of what must be expected by all who submit to Jesus, and associate themselves with his people [Note: Joshua 10:3-4.] — — — And does it not require courage to endure this? — — — Verily, there are many who would find it easier to walk up to the mouth of a cannon, than to brave the contempt and obloquy to which a profession of religion would expose them.]

2. To practise it—

[Let a person be solicited by his friends to unite with them in courses which he disapproves; let him be ridiculed as indulging needless scrupulosity and preciseness, or perhaps as hypocritically pretending to more sanctity than his neighbours; will he find it easier to be steadfast in his obedience to God, dissembling no truth, omitting no duty, conforming to nothing dubious or sinful? Will he need no courage to stem the torrent, to disregard the appearances of singularity, and to maintain a conscience void of offence towards God and man? — — —]

3. To recommend and enforce it—

[The Gospel enjoins us, not only to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to reprove them.” Now we know what have been the consequences of such faithfulness in all ages; “I hate Micaiah, because he doth not speak good concerning me, but evil:” “The world hateth me, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil [Note: John 7:7.].” And is it a light matter to encounter the hatred of our friends, and relatives, yea, and of the whole world? When we foresee these consequences, are we in no danger of withholding the admonitions and instructions which we ought to give? Are we in no danger of “putting our light under a bushel,” when we know what offence will be taken at us, if we suffer it to shine forth? Are we under no temptation to indulge that “fear of man which bringeth a snare?”]

If we cannot recommend, or practise, or even profess, religion, without valour, we can have no doubt about,

II. The duty of exercising it—

It is a duty we owe,

1. To God—

[God has not told us to obey his commandments only as far as the world will approve, but to “follow him fully,” and to love and serve him with our whole hearts, Will he then be contented to see us “partial in the law?” Will he accept our plea, if we urge our fear of man as a reason of our not fearing and obeying him? No: he has bidden us “not to fear man, who can only kill the body; but to fear him, who can destroy both body and soul in hell [Note: Luke 12:4-5.].”]

2. To our neighbours—

[What will they think of religion, if they see us, who profess it, violating its most sacred obligations through feat of offending man? Will they not imagine that it is not worth contending for? Will they not be emboldened to shew the same preference to the world that we do; and to regard the opinions of men more than the commands of God? On the contrary, Would not a firm, bold, decided conduct tend to convince them, that God is worthy to be served, and that “his loving-kindness is better than life itself?”]

3. To ourselves—

[Our own everlasting welfare depends upon our steadfastness in the ways of God. “If we are ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us:” “if we deny him, he will deny us;” “if we draw back, it will be unto perdition; for his soul can have no pleasure in us:” “he only that overcometh, shall inherit all things;” and “he only that endureth unto the end, shall ever be saved.” If then we have any regard for our own souls, we must be valiant, and “quit ourselves like men:” for if even life itself be suffered to stand in competition with his will, our souls will be forfeited and lost for ever [Note: Matthew 10:39.].]

It is not however sufficient to possess valour: we should also understand,

III. In what way it should be exercised—

Here we are very liable to err: true Christian valour should be shewn,

1. In meek and patient sufferings—

[Passive valour is by far the most valuable. Would we see it illustrated? Let us see how it operated in the Apostle Paul: “Being defamed,” says he, “we entreat; being persecuted, we suffer it.” Would we behold the most striking exemplification of it that ever existed? Let us behold Jesus, who had just before evinced his power over his enemies by striking them all to the ground with a word, yielding up himself to them, and led as a sheep to the slaughter. Behold him, “dumb before them, even as a sheep before her shearers; giving his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair, and not hiding his face from shame and spitting:” “when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself unto him that judgeth righteously:” yes, here was precisely the valour which we are called to exercise. We must “possess our souls in patience,” and “let patience have its perfect work.” If once we recede from this ground, we are vanquished, If we would “not be overcome of evil, we must overcome evil with good.”]

2. In firm and steady perseverance—

[Obedience to God is the great point: to that we must adhere at all events. We must resemble Daniel and the Hebrew youths, and determine to suffer the most cruel death, rather than violate the dictates of our conscience [Note: Daniel 3:16-18.], or neglect any known duty whatsoever [Note: Daniel 6:10.]. Next to our blessed Lord, St. Paul perhaps endured more for the truth’s sake than any of the children of men: in every place, bonds and afflictions awaited him: but “none of those things could move him, neither counted he his life dear unto him, so that he might but fulfil the ministry” committed to him: he was “willing not only to be bound, but also to die,” at any place, at any time, and in any manner, for his Master’s sake: when he had been stoned, and left for dead, at Lystra, he returned again speedily to that very city, regardless of his own life, and intent only on executing the commission which he had received of the Lord Jesus [Note: Acts 14:8; Acts 14:19; Acts 14:21.]? Thus must we go on, “steadfast, immoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord:” and in such a course we shall approve ourselves “good soldiers of Jesus Christ.”]

We would add to what has been said, a word,

1. Of caution—

[Let not any imagine that Christian fortitude at all militates against the duties which we owe to our parents, or to any that are placed in authority over us. Many are apt to mistake pertness and forwardness as marks of valour: but “they know not what spirit they are of;” they are, in fact, displeasing God as much as man, while they indulge a petulant, froward disposition. We need look well to ourselves in this particular, and see that we are not gratifying our own self-will, under a pretended regard for the commands of God. We should never forget the respect due to our superiors: and when we are forced to act contrary to their commands, we should strive as much as possible to conciliate them in our manner of doing it; and shew them, that our opposition to their will is not a matter of choice, but of necessity.]

2. Of encouragement—

[None need to fear, as though they should not be able to act valiantly in the hour of trial: for God has promised, that we shall not be tempted above our ability to withstand, or without a way for us to escape [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:13.]. We are told of women, who, under the most grievous sufferings for conscience sake, would not accept deliverance, when it was offered as an inducement to recede from their principles [Note: Hebrews 11:35.]. We need not fear therefore but that “our strength also shall be according to our day [Note: Deuteronomy 33:25.].” God will “strengthen us by his Spirit in our inward man, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness:” and “his strength shall be perfected in our weakness.” In the weakest amongst us shall that promise be exemplified, “They that do know their God, shall be strong, and do exploits [Note: Daniel 11:32.].”]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Bend, Heb. tread, because bows are usually kneeled or trod upon when they are bent, Jer 1 14 51:3.

Like their bow; their tongues are here compared to a bow, and lies to arrows, because as a bow shoots out arrows, so doth the tongue words, Psalms 64:3.

For lies, i.e. all reproachful, false, and noxious words, to the damage of one another; and so bending may be preparing, framing, and contriving that mischief which they purpose to vent with their tongues, Psalms 52:2-4 64:3, as bending is preparing the bow to do execution with the arrow.

They are not valiant for the truth; equity, justice; they are as eager in the ways of falsehood as men engaged in war, but show no valour in maintaining the truth.

Upon the earth, i.e. no truth in the earth in them, as we use to express ourselves; or rather more genuinely in the land wherein they live, they have no courage in what is good.

They proceed from evil to evil; either in kind or in degree; they go on from bad to worse, 2 Timothy 3:13, which speaks little hopes of their repentance; the ground of all which is said here to be, their not knowing of God, as in the next clause, Jude 2:10,11 1 Samuel 2:12. The heart cannot work strongly after God where there be but mean apprehensions of him.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

3. Tongues like their bow — Ready to shoot out lies.

Not valiant for the truth — This grand phrase is not defensible as a translation in this place. The precise thought is, They do not bear sway in faithfulness; that is, they gain their influence by treachery and deceit.

Upon the earth — Rather, in the land, namely, Judea.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The Lord added that they assassinated people with their words, which they used as arrows. They spoke falsehood more than the truth. They went from one evil thing to another, giving evidence of no acquaintance with Yahweh (cf. Romans 1:28).

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Jeremiah 9:3. They bend their tongues like their bow — With a great deal of craft, their tongues are fitted for lying, as a bow which is bent is for shooting. Thus the psalmist compares the tongue to a bow and words of calumny and falsehood to arrows, Psalms 64:3-4. But they are not valiant for the truth — They use their tongues in defence of lies rather than of the truths of God; and, in the administration of justice, they have not courage to stand by an honest cause that has truth on its side, if greatness and power be on the other side. Truth is fallen in the land, and they dare not lend a hand to help it up, Isaiah 59:14-15. They proceed from evil to evil — From one sin to another, and from one degree of sin to another. They every day grow more bold in their wickedness, because they escape punishment, and they enrich themselves by their evil deeds, and so become formidable, defending and maintaining their wickedness by fresh acts of wickedness. And they know not me, saith the Lord — And where men have not the true knowledge of God, what but evil can be expected from them? Observe, reader, men’s ignorance of God is the cause of all their bad conduct one toward another.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Lies. They are bent on deceit (Calmet) and murder, (Haydock) ver. 8., and Psalm lxiii. 4., and cxix. 2.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

bend: or, prepare.

truth = veracity.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD. They bend their tongues like their bow for lies - i:e., with lies as their arrows; they direct lies on their tongue as their bow (Psalms 64:3-4, "Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words").

Not valiant for the truth - (Jeremiah 7:28). Maurer translates, 'They do not prevail by truth' or faith (Psalms 12:4, "With our tongue will we prevail"). Their tongue, not faith, is their weapon.

Upon the earth - rather, 'in the land.'

They know not me - (Hosea 4:1, "There is no knowledge of God in the land").

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(3) Like their bow for lies.—The inserted words turn the boldness of the metaphor into a comparatively tame simile. They bend their tongue to be their bow of lies. The same figure meets us in Psalms 57:4; Psalms 58:7; Psalms 64:3.

They are not valiant for the truth upon the earth.—Better, they are not mighty for truth, i.e., faithfulness, in the land—i.e., they do not rule faithfully. It is not without some regret that we part with a phrase which has gained something of a proverbial character as applied to the champions of speculative truth or abstract right, but the above gives the true meaning of the Hebrew.

They know not me.—“Know” in the sense of acknowledging and obeying (1 Samuel 2:12; Job 18:21). This was the root evil from which all other evils issued.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD.
they bend
5,8; Psalms 52:2-4; 64:3,4; 120:2-4; Isaiah 59:3-5,13-15; Micah 7:3-5; Romans 3:13
Matthew 10:31-33; Mark 8:38; Romans 1:16; Philippians 1:28; Jude 1:3; Revelation 12:11
for they
7:26; 2 Timothy 3:13
they know
4:22; 22:16; 31:34; Judges 2:10; 1 Samuel 2:12; Hosea 4:1-3; John 8:54,55; 17:3; Romans 1:28; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

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